Category Archives: Notes from the Southwest Corner

Notes from the Southwest Corner: an addendum to “A Pleasant Walk Through History”

lebanon-bookThis photo of the book cover accompanied the column in the paper addition of the paper (hmm…i have to think about that statement).

As per my usual modus operendi, i didn’t go back and check and therefore didn’t include the other books on that shelf: No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade: Random Observations in Verse, Paul Wooten’s poetry book; Castle Heights Military Academy 100th Anniversary  Alumni Directory;  Grand Ole Saturday Nights, Margaret Britton Vaughn; Discovering Tennessee, Mary U. Rothrock; Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History, John Allison; Tennessee: The Volunteer State, Mary French Caldwell; Landmarks  of Tennessee History, edited by William T. Alderson and Robert M. McBride; Remembering Wilson County, published by Wilson County Bank & Trust; and Haunting Memories: Echoes and Images of Tennessee’s Past, photos by Christine P. Patterson and text by Wilma Dykeman.

And although William Faulkner was as Mississippi as Mississippi can be, his works bring me back to home. Faulkner’s County: Yoknapatawpha, a photographic essay of Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area accompanied by quotes from Faulkner’s novels evoke feelings, real powerful feelings, and i include the book in my list.

i have found the information about the books and their authors, editors, and publishers are almost as interesting as the books themselves.

i keep trying to imagine Major Wooten bending over his desk, writing his poetry by hand in his classroom (wasn’t it in the McFadden basement, Heightsmen of my time?) after the cadets had gone to short order drill on the drill field; the track team had rendezvoused on what is now known as Stroud Gwynn Field and will soon become history so Wilson County Bank and Trust can build a headquarters building (sometimes progress isn’t) and played Jimmy Reed’s album of blues over the press box speaker system, the baseball team had ambled down to the diamond on hill street east of the drill field to smack out hits and field grounders and lazy fly balls. And then i try to picture the erstwhile major taking them home and clacking out the poems on his typewriter into the late evening.

Lillian, his wife, compiled and edited them. i have a copy signed by Lillian, dated the year the book was published, 1994. i ‘m sure my mother and father bought the book for me. Lillian wrote, “Jim, Enjoy a chat with Mr. Wooten through this book of verse.”

i have had chats with the Major on numerous occasions.

His poetry is more poetic than mine. His is classic poetry. And it rhymes. It is thoughtful, deep, light, meaningful, humorous, and most of all, it touches my soul. Yet it seems we both have had this passion for writing, not necessarily for others to read, but something that drives us from within to put things down on paper, except now it’s on this infernal computer screen. Of course, it is pleasing to know people read what i write and like it. i’m sure Major Wooten felt the same when his works were published.

There are times when i chastise myself for missing him. He was always there on the hilltop in his Army greens, but i never had him for class. i think we would have connected. i remember him as being a nice man who seemed professional, a teacher. i had already started to write poems, mostly as an outlet and all pretty bad. i have never rhymed very much and keep trying to categorize what i write because “poetry” seems like an exaggerated compliment. But Paul Wooten’s verses are poetry, pure poetry.

In the introduction, Lillian writes when April rolls in, she will honor his request to “Look out the window once, for me.”

And in April, i will look out the window, pull No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade down from the bookshelf and have another chat with the major.

 

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Tragedy Strikes Twice

 

This column was published in The Lebanon Democrat this past Tuesday. i think it is one of my better ones. However, my editing was bad. You see, i fried my laptop last Thursday week with a full glass of water on the keyboard. It is in the process of being repaired or the data being retrieved, but it has put me in a quandary and going back to a PC and Windows, rather than the Mac, has thrown me for a loop. Even passwords, especially to my own web site has been a problem.i hope the below revision has been edited properly.  With the help of Walker Hicks, the game is back on.

SAN DIEGO – Two events, similar but different, occurred this past week.

Muhammad Ali, nee Cassius Marcellus Clay, in case you have been sequestered, died Friday after an extended battle with Parkinson’s disease. The world has extolled Ali’s virtues and celebrated his life.

Thursday night, Donny Everett, a Vanderbilt freshman pitcher from Clarksville, drowned in Normandy Lake. Donny’s accident was broadcast widely in sports media, and the Commodores were lauded for honoring their fallen teammate while losing to Xavier and Washington and being eliminated from the NCAA.

Both were athletes a cut above the norm and both were honored after their deaths.

Ali’s claim as “The Greatest” was not without merit. He was meteor with a mouth rising to fame when I was in high school and college. I covered his bouts from a distance while working in sports journalism. He eclipsed the magnetism of boxing champions who preceded him and was, in my mind, the last great champion of the “sport of kings.”

Donny Everett, 19, was a gifted pitcher who remained loyal to his commitment to play for Vanderbilt even after being selected as Tennessee’s Gatorade Player of the Year and projected to be a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft after his senior season for Clarksville in 2015. He was praised for his 99-mph fastball and his ability to eat up innings. This season at Vandy, he recorded a 1.5 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Yet there were differences between the two.

Ali was two years older than me. Donny was young enough to be my grandson.

Ali took me through a gamut of feelings about him.

I considered him our country’s hero when he won the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960.

In February 1964, I listened to the Clay-Liston championship fight on my small radio in my Vanderbilt dorm room. I was mesmerized. While many sports writers and fans found his antics and braggadocio unattractive, I thought he was marvelous.

When he changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam shortly after winning the championship, I questioned him and his new religion. I was on an NROTC scholarship. Ali’s conversion seemed to me as an affront to my religious views and patriotism.

As I was nearing graduation in 1967 and pursuing Navy OCS after being declared 1-A for the draft, Ali declared he was a “conscientious objector,” beginning four years of legal battles before the Supreme Court overturned his conviction for avoiding the draft. Since I had committed to serving my country, it was hard for me to understand Ali’s motives.

As the years progressed, I learned more of Ali’s reasoning for his religious conversion and how he was passionate about equality. I again became an admirer of his views and his boxing prowess. When news of his contracting Parkinson’s disease, most likely due to the many blows while boxing, I was saddened. When he lit the torch at the 1996 opening ceremony for the Atlanta Olympics, I was thrilled.

Vanderbilt teammates leave a space in their line for their fallen teammate, Donny Everett.
Vanderbilt teammates leave a space in their line for their fallen teammate, Donny Everett.

I knew little of Donny Everett. I saw him pitch a scoreless inning in the SEC playoffs. That was it. But as I read about the person and the athlete, I could not help but draw comparisons to Ali. Donny’s time on earth and his passing will certainly not have the lasting impact Ali has had on the world. Everett’s potential, his conviviality, and his loyalty are gone. He could have been a champion in American sports. He could have had a positive impact on the world as an athletic hero. We will never know.

I believe Ali’s words about how he would like to be remembered would be shared by Donny had the young man had the chance to think about it:

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

 

A Pocket of Resistance: My dog and the turkey: Thanksgiving Apologies to the Barefoot Contessa

 

There are four reasons i don’t have a dog. The first reason is i  have had to put two down, and i don’t plan to have another until i am absolutely sure i will go first.

The second reason is related to the first as i do not want the burden of trying to take care of a dog while Maureen and i are traveling quite a bit.

The third reason is i am not sure i want another dog unless i can be sure the last one will be exactly like my middle one. My first (and my ex-wife’s as we got her for our wedding present to each other; but she recognized the bond and allowed me to keep the dog) was an Old English Sheepdog we named “Lady Snooks of Joy” paying homage to her ancestry and my Uncle Snooks Hall. i loved Snooks, even loved the 45-minutes of daily combing to which i adhered most of the time. i have numerous fond memories of her exploits. The last dog Maureen and i had, Lena, was a wonderful dog who did a lot of amazing things. Her affection for us was unbounded and the affection was returned.

Then there was Cass. Cass was my dog.

He was named for Ike McCaslin, the protagonist in William Faulkner’s “The Bear.” It turned out he reminded me of “Lion,” the dog in the story, the bear, and Ike himself.

Cass was a Labrador. Technically, he was a yellow lab, but his coat was golden in color.

Cass was an independent cuss who, for all practical purposes, flunked two obedience classes, the basic in Florida, and the advanced in El Cajon. He loved children anywhere, anytime. He loved people in general, and i don’t recall any incident of him even growling at a person.

Cass would take on any other dogs if they stumbled into his territory, which included two dobermans at one time, and a 125# German Shepard. He bowled over o’possums. He played with coyotes. He chased roadrunners, and damn near broke my arm almost catching one on a trail just east of our old home. He body surfed on Coronado’s dog beach (and would gather an audience from 50 to 100 beachgoers to watch).

Cass would run away at any opportunity. Boy, would he run away. But i would know he was running down the canyon and through a neighborhood at the bottom of the hill to an open space. i would get in  my “family truckster” (as my older daughter labeled my mini-van), drive the two miles to the open space, and open the door. Cass would jump in, his tongue and tail wagging, and ride happily in the shotgun seat back to the house.

i don’t think there will ever be one like him for me. Hence, i am reluctant to get another.

The fourth reason is also due to Cass. He did not eat a turkey, but once, he did clean two marinated pork chops off the kitchen counter as i was preparing the grill for cooking. And when i smoked my first turkey with Maureen, i  did use the bucket, normally his water dish, for marinating the turkey. 

So Cass was the inspiration for the dog in this recipe. And as long as i am smoking turkeys for Thanksgiving, i don’t wish to have to use the dog’s water dish.

This recipe has been published several times. i am thinking of republishing it every Thanksgiving as JB Leftwich published a recipe of his mother’s (i think) for a Christmas column (i think) every year. – Okay, one of you Leftwich’s, keep me straight on this. So i am starting my tradition in honor of Coach, and, of course, Cass.

This particular version was a column for The Lebanon Democrat:

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Thanksgiving Apologies to the Barefoot Contessa

SAN DIEGO—Holidays, except for the weather, are pretty much the same for me out here in the southwest corner or back in Tennessee. To start, no one will let me smoke the turkey.

When I was growing up in Lebanon, and every time I return there for a holiday, my mother cooks the turkey. When there are only a few of us there, she makes a chicken taste like a turkey. She roasts the turkey, or the chicken, in the oven, and it comes complete with dressing and gravy. When we have a holiday out here, my wife cooks the turkey the same way my mother cooks the turkey. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I volunteer to cook the turkey. Every year, whether in Tennessee or out here in the Southwest corner, whoever is in charge of turkeys says no. They profess to love the turkey the way I fix it, but they say another time would be better. They say they want a traditional turkey.

I picked up turkey cooking while I was spending some considerable time about two-thirds of the way between here in the southwest corner and Tennessee. The Colonel, grandfather of my older daughter, lived up in Paris, Texas, and he fed me my first smoked turkey. I loved it. Since then, I have modified his recipe somewhat and do cook one fine smoked turkey. Since I can’t have it out here or in Tennessee, I thought someone with fewer traditionalists in their immediate family might like to have the recipe to try for the holidays.

Smoking a Turkey

INGREDIENTS:

  1. A turkey. This is fairly important to the success of the whole affair. Pick a good one. The critical part is to make sure it will fit in the smoker
  2. 1 container large enough to hold the turkey and cover it with the magic elixir. I’ve been known to use a plastic bucket, but sometimes the dog gets upset as we normally use it for his water dish. This is okay as long as we stay out of biting reach of the dog for two or three days.
  3. 1 smoker, probably any kind that claims to be a smoker and any number of possible jury rigs would work; however, if I were using a “Weber” or like vessel, I would make sure that there was extra water in the smoker).
  4. 1 bottle of beer. Beer in longnecks is preferable but one should not become too concerned about the type of beer as “Lone Star” is a bit too elegant for this type of cooking. Besides, we wouldn’t want to waste a beer worth drinking on some dumb turkey. If one is desperate and doesn’t mind subjecting oneself to abject humiliation, it is permissible to stoop to using a can of beer.
  5. 1\2 cup of Madeira. Again, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the quality of the wine, and in truth, any red wine is probably okay. However, I would stay away from “Night Train” wine as it has been known to eat through barbeque grills, smokers, and anything made of material weaker than that used in hulls of nuclear submarines. But it is cheap.
  6. Angostura bitters
  7. Worcestershire sauce
  8. Chili powder
  9. Oregano
  10. Sage
  11. Honey
  12. Molasses
  13. Undoubtedly, there are numerous items that I have forgotten to list here, but that’s okay as it really depends on what your individual taste is — I don’t suggest substituting low fat milk for the beer, but most everything else is probably okay — and if it’s really important, I’ll realize I left it out when I get to the narrative of how to use all this stuff and include the forgotten ingredient there.

PREPARATION:

Thaw the turkey. Take all those weird things that they put in those plastic packages inside the turkey and cook them in a skillet without the plastic packages, turning them frequently. Then feed what you just cooked to the dog. It might placate him enough to keep him from biting you for taking away his water bucket. If there are traditionalists in the bunch, give the stuff to them rather than the dog and let them make gravy.

Put the turkey in large container. Pour beer and Madeira over turkey. If you have not allowed about 24 hours for the turkey to thaw or about 8-12 hours for marinating the turkey, call your invited guests and advise them that the celebration will be about two days later than indicated on the original invitation.

Sprinkle other ingredients over the turkey. Be plentiful. It’s almost impossible to get too much.

Crunch the garlic cloves I didn’t mention in the ingredients and add to the container. I normally use about four normal sized cloves for a normal sized turkey. Also add the previously omitted bay leaves, about 6-8 for that same normal sized bird.

Add enough water to cover the turkey although it probably wouldn’t be a disaster if a leg partially stuck out. Then put the container in a safe place, unless of course, you want the dog to be rapturously happy and not bite you until long after his teeth have fallen out.

Allow to sit undisturbed for 6-10 hours (longer is better and ten hours is not necessarily the upper limit but exceeding ten hours may have some impact on when you either eat or get tired of the turkey taking up all that safe space).

Put the turkey on smoker grill above water pan after lighting the charcoal (one or two coals burning well is the best condition for the charcoal) and placing soaked hickory chips, which I also forgot to mention, earlier on the charcoal — again, be plentiful — after soaking the chips for at least 30 minutes. Pour remaining magic elixir over the turkey into the water pan. Add as much water to the water pan as possible without overflowing and putting out the fire below. Cover. Do not touch. Do not look. Do not peek…unless it doesn’t start to smoke in about thirty minutes. Then peek. If it’s smoking, leave alone for at least six hours for a large normal sized turkey. It is almost impossible to overcook if you have added enough water at the outset. You should check and add water or charcoal throughout the process. I have found that mesquite charcoal is the best, as it burns hotter. Regular charcoal will do fine but will require more checking.

The secret to the whole process is to cook extremely slow, as slow as possible and still start the fire.

Serve turkey, preferably without the garlic cloves or bay leaves. Now is the time for “Night Train” wine or the good beer. Serve “Night Train” very cold as indicated on the label.

The turkey’s also good cold.

Shoot the dog.

i was kidding about the last paragraph. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving…and give thanks for what we have.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Liberty is freedom, especially for an old sailor

 

For the past two days, i have been considering writing my Democrat column for next Tuesday about Pattaya Beach, Thailand. It was a great liberty port with an interesting way to get to shore. I was even going to submit the column two to four days earlier, hopefully pleasing Editor Jared Felkins.

This evening, as i prepared to write and while copying a photo to run with the column, something was nagging me. So i did a search of back columns and found the one below i wrote in 2009. My old memory has some holes but occasionally nagging thoughts serve me well.

Since i can’t use this for The Democrat, i decided you might enjoy reading about our exploits in 1981. It is the cleaned up version.

SAN DIEGO – In the Southwest corner, there is some historic land bordering San Diego Bay.

“Historic” is in the eye of the beholder. Many consider this land historic because it was in several scenes in “Top Gun,” the Tom Cruise blockbuster.

An aside: my cousin Angelyn Jewell, was the inspiration for Kelly McGillis’ character. Angelyn, born to Wesley and Barbara Compton Jewell after they moved from Lebanon to Oroville, CA, received her doctorate in mathematics and flew in F-14s in her work on fire control radars for the Center for Naval Analyses. She and her husband, Scott Berg, now live and work in Washington, D.C.

But from 1923 to 1997, the 361 acres at the base of Point Loma was the Navy Training Center. The Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) decreed its 1997 demise. Now it is called Liberty Station, a hodge podge of housing development, commercial areas, parks, and some Navy historic edifices.

The name could have been derived from “liberty” as in Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” in his speech to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1775.

But I don’t think so. To mariners, Navy “liberty” is getting off the ship in a port without taking leave. My most glorious adventures and craziest moments occurred during such liberty on deployments.

Reduced deployment time and the new Navy with ship crew swaps and heavy operating tempo in the Indian Ocean have greatly decreased port visits. With women now an integral part of Navy ship crews, the wild times of earlier liberty has been greatly tempered.

It ain’t what it used to be and that ain’t necessarily bad.

In my days, sailors would go to extremes to go on liberty and be extreme while there.

In 1981, I had one of my best years on liberty. I spent ten out of 12 months in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean on the staff of Amphibious Squadron Five and later joining the U.S.S. Okinawa as Weapons Officer.

During that summer, the USS Belleau Wood, the squadron’s flag ship went to Pattaya Beach, Thailand. Originally, Pattaya Beach was a small fishing village at the southeastern side of the Bay of Bangkok.

In the 1960s in part due to the U.S. Air Force and the Vietnam conflict, it became a popular location for rest and relaxation (R&R) for U.S. military personnel. It is now a resort destination for that part of the world.

For a large Navy ship, there were some problems going to Pattaya Beach. Due to the shallow gradient, the USS Belleau Wood anchored five miles from the beach. Large pontoon boats loaded about fifty of the liberty party onto each boat and carried them to about a mile from shore.

The pontoon boats would lie to while “longtails” would come alongside for the passengers. The “longtails” were narrow, wooden canoe-like boats which could carry about 15 people. The boats got their name from the shaft of the outboard motor. The shafts were roughly twenty feet long, sticking out astern. This allowed the propellers to be in deep enough water to drive the boats as close to shore as possible before going aground.

With the shallow gradient, even this was not enough to get the “longtails” ashore at low tide, which of course was the condition when I went ashore. Passengers took off their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants to above their knees, stepped over the side and waded about 100 yards to the shore.

I felt like McArthur returning to the Philippines except for the numerous para-sailing tourists zooming over my head.

In 1981, Pattaya Beach surpassed even Subic Bay on Luzon in the Philippines for wild and wooly liberty. Yet it also had high end resort hotels and fine restaurants. Even though I was single, stories of the dangers kept me out of the bars and “off-limit” areas. I had some fine meals with fellow officers, enjoyed the scenery, and shopped for exquisite jewels at ridiculously low prices. I bought my mother a gift.

For a change, I was a good boy and did not cut a wide swath through Pattaya Beach liberty. However, many friends did, and the stories were astounding but too risqué to relate here.

But when I think of liberty, I think of Pattaya Beach, not a development in downtown San Diego.

 

A long tail boat. This one is in Bangkok, and much nicer than our liberty boats in Pattaya Beach in 1981.
A longtail boat. This one is in Bangkok, and much nicer than our liberty boats in Pattaya Beach in 1981.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Potpourri and the weather

As i noted on FaceBook, i am still working on getting this new website working the way i want it to work. This column was written last Tuesday, October 13, when it should have had a link to the Democrat’s publishing it, not today, as was done a bit earlier.

Oh, this is so confusing. i do plan to get better at it, but sometimes golf gets in the way.

SAN DIEGO  – I spent last week wondering what to write here.
No idea seemed suited for a complete column. When I became The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times sports editor in 1972, I announced there would not be a daily column, as my predecessor, Jack Case (who gave Raymond Robinson his nickname of “Sugar Ray”) had written for more than 40 years).  I believed there would be times (there were) when I would just be making up stuff.

Writing here for eight years has changed my opinion. There is always something to write about. Yet sometimes, there is nothing requiring a full column. If I were in Lebanon, I could certainly pursue a couple of topics included here, but alas, I’m not. So I must channel Fred Russell again and devote this column to potpourri, specifically weather-related potpourri.

Southwest Corner

We really do spend a lot of time talking about the weather.

I have spent the last quarter of a century boasting about Southwest corner weather, and now, I’m going to have to rein in such bragging.

It’s been almost two months of Tennessee August out here. High temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees, and the humidity has been higher than I can remember. Maureen and I are aware of this because we never put air-conditioning in our home of 25 years. Didn’t need it. Oh, there were a couple of days every year or so when a Santa Ana would come rolling through and it was a little bit warm. But the weather patterns have changed, and these past few months are different from the norm.

Surprisingly, we coped, confirming I prefer fresh air if at all possible.

Heights Homecomings

Meanwhile, it appears this weekend’s Castle Heights homecoming weather was like what I remember from mine as a cadet. I wish I could have been there this year. Autumn is only a charade in the Southwest corner. CHMA Homecoming autumn remains a pleasant memory.

The bordering trees on the drive up the hill were splendiferous in rust, red, and yellow. The football field was decked out fully. Cadet dates were splendid in their fall suits with the mums pinned on their jackets. The maroon and gold uniforms matched the autumn colors perfectly. I could smell autumn.

It was a special time in a special place. Sometimes I think my faulty memory has erred. It just couldn’t have been that wonderful.

homecoming 1
Homecoming, Castle Heights Military Academy, 1961: Alan McClellan, Sandy Colley, Sharry Baird, Mary Hugh Evans, and an unidentified cadet and his date. Sandy, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was my date for the weekend.

Inchon

During this weekend’s evenings, I watched the PGA President’s Cup golf tournament in Inchon, South Korea. The Americans won a nail biter, 15½ to 14½, great drama. Bill Haas needed to tie the hole for a USA win. If Bae Sang-moon won the hole, the Cup would be shared. Bae, a South Korean, was playing in his last PGA event for two years. The 29-year old will begin his required military service next month. The drama turned to sadness when he chunked his third shot, a chip, assuring the U.S. victory. I wanted the American team to win. I did not want the Internationals to lose…if that makes sense.

Equally impressive was the new Inchon in the backdrop. The last time I was in Inchon was 1975. It was a different place. The city was dirty and, in some places, squalid. I recall lots of small, dark and musty casinos. But of course, sailors migrated toward such environments on overseas liberty. The positive change to an amazingly modern and beautiful city was shocking.

Over the four-day, 30-match tournament when the cameras panned out to the Yellow Sea with commercial ships at anchorage, recollection of South Korea weather came flooding back. The tournament experienced 30-knot wind several days. Rain pelted everyone for almost the entire proceedings on day two. The announcers noted the apparent temperature was hovering around 40 degrees.

I’ve been there. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a colder, windier, wetter place than when entering Korean waters beyond the summer months, even October.

Not much to do about it

The unusual heat in the Southwest corner is dissipating. In a week, we should be back to our normal winter averages of mid-70 highs and mid-50 lows. But El Niño is predicted to bring lots of much needed rain soon. There’s not a great deal we can do about the weather.

But it would be nice to be at an October homecoming at Castle Heights.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

i wrote this column in December 2007. i no longer go to a barber shop. There’s no real need. i bought an electric razor, put on a number 2 blade, zip, zap, and Maureen cleans the results as best she can. It’s easier, cheaper, and nothing is really going to make me look better anymore. Still, i miss the camaraderie that exists in a barber shop.

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

Notes from the Southwest Corner (Archive 12/03/07): Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

Notes from the Southwest Corner (archives): Good Things Happen to Those Who Wait

i began writing a weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat in October 2007. Except for a few hiccups when i missed a deadline, it has appeared in the paper, initially on Thursday and now on Tuesdays.

With my superb sense and lousy execution of organization abetted by an unhealthy dose of procrastination and some degree of adult attention deficit disorder as well as a significant problem with CRS, i am struggling with archiving all of my columns, primarily for my grandson, and have decided to use this site as an excuse to actually get some organization accomplished. So in addition to linking you to my column on the newspaper’s website and archiving the current columns, i will be posting old ones here. In my first search, the earliest column i found was this one, the sixth “Notes…” column that was published in November 2007.

Fittingly, this one was about my mother and Lebanon High School, two forces that have had a powerful impact on my life and remain such even though i did not attend the latter.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.
Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Last Monday, Ms Denise Joyner, the Lebanon High School Athletic Director called and announced Estelle Prichard Jewell had been selected as an inaugural member of the Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame.

Estelle Jewell is my mother.

About a year ago, J.B. Leftwich, a weekly columnist for this paper, a close family friend, and my mentor in journalism (which I have noted frequently), wrote a tribute to Estelle and suggested she might have been the best women’s basketball player in the history of Blue Devil Sports. For her size, his suggestion just might be a slam dunk.

In a 1935 district tournament semi-final, Estelle scored 33 points for the Blue Devilettes girls basketball team and was named to the all-tournament team. For the 1934-35 season, she scored 283 points in 19-games. This was during an era when most games were low-scoring affairs, rarely exceeding 30 points total. Her single game and season scoring records stood for a quarter of a century.

She will be inducted during a half time ceremony during LHS basketball games, December 14

I am elated. LHS’ Hall of Fame is honoring her just after she turned 90 in July.

I am anxious to learn of other inductees. Clifton Tribble, Don Franklin, David Robinson, Ann Lucas. Louis Thompson, David Grandstaff, Hal Greer, and many others immediately come to mind as probable selections. It bemuses me to think of my mother standing next to these heroes of mine and receiving her plaque.

Estelle Jewell today does not come across as a hall of fame athlete. Being 90 certainly belies her earlier skills. She also tops out at five feet tall. I saw her take a shot once. It was a two-handed push. She jumped and spread her legs when she shot. From fifteen feet, it hit nothing but net. I don’t think she could do that now.

In reflection, she laughs about her play. “I got 33 in the semi-finals,” she says, “but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn the next night, and we lost.” I have never heard her brag about her accomplishments.

In her recollection of a game at Mount Juliet, she recalled how she would try not to drive for a lay-up on one end of the court because she might run into the Ben Franklin stove underneath the basket. The stove heated the entire gym.

Not considering the stove, it was a different game then with three zones with two guards on the defensive end, two forwards on the offensive end, and two centers in the middle who passed the ball from defense to offense. One dribble was all that was allowed.

Still, Estelle’s accomplishments remain exceptional.

Her shooting skills were probably enhanced by chores. Her grandfather, Joseph Webster, the retired Methodist circuit rider, would give her a penny for each fly she swatted and killed inside the farmhouse on Hunter’s Point Pike.

Her endurance and strength were likely abetted by other chores she and her two sisters and brother undertook while her mother was a care-giver, working day and night (Her father, Joe Blythe Prichard, died young and the family lived with their grandfather).

When her hall of fame career in sports was concluded, Estelle quickly put it aside and went to work. She learned secretarial skills at the County Court Clerk’s office in the old courthouse on the square. She worked for the Commerce Union Bank on the north side of the corner of the square and East Main Street. She married my father, Jimmy Jewell, in 1938, three years after she had graduated from LHS.

She is a reflection of all of the women of that generation whom I have known: practically feminine with a firm grasp of reality; frugal but willing to lavish gifts and love on her family and friends. She is a product of hard times (the depression), frightening times of sacrifice and victory (World War II), security produced by hard and loyal work, and change without end. They are strong, balanced, and loving women.

But every once in a while, basketball will come up in a conversation, and you can still see the sparkle in Estelle’s eyes.

When I called my mother for congratulations, her and my father’s excitement made it an unforgettable phone call. She was thrilled. The news was something to feel good about.

Thank you, Blue Devils for proving in a good place like Lebanon, good things do happen, especially for those who wait.

An early Christmas on the left coast

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, December 16, 2014. Only the photo of the puppet theater was included with the column. The others were added for this post, although my editing skills with the Mac are still being tested and two photos are small. The one of Kinsley hardly captures what a beautiful, fun, and behaved young girl she really is: a true delight, and i am looking forward to spending more time with her and her wondeful mother, Renee, in the coming year. Cousin Nancy, i wish you were here.

SAN DIEGO — Our weekend included packing for our Christmas trip, but Sunday, we had a Christmas treat of our own in the Southwest corner.

Late Sunday morning, we drove to Balboa Park. While most people associate Balboa Park with the San Diego Zoo, there are many other facets to the park, which was established in 1892 and blossomed in 1915 when the Panama-California Exposition was held in the city. The park has a working theater, a replica of Shakespeare’s Old Globe along with too many museums to count, hiking trails, gardens, and restaurants.

The view from our table at El Prado
The view from our table at El Prado

We ran some Christmas errands before lunch at El Prado, a wonderful restaurant housed in one of the exposition buildings with a courtyard in front and outdoor dining in back, which overlooks a pool, fountain, and garden. We had lunch outside and could have spent several hours there, but we were on a Christmas mission.

There was a Lebanon connection, or at least, a Cumberland connection.

We were on our way to meet Kinsley, the great, great granddaughter of my Aunt Evelyn Orr, who was mentioned in an earlier column about Thanksgiving and the road to Chattanooga. Evelyn’s daughter, Nancy moved to Florida where she still resides in Cape Canaveral. Nancy’s daughter, Kathy, moved to Michigan. Her daughter, Renee Hoskins became a Marine, got out and had Kinsley. They live in Oceanside. Just before Kinsley turned two this summer, we connected at, where else, the San Diego Zoo.

This lineage dissection proves there are many ways to land in the Southwest corner.

Our mission was to meet Renee and Kinsley at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park. The puppeteers were putting on a Christmas program. We thought that would be something Kinsley would enjoy.

puppets3We drove to Balboa Park early, stopping at the zoo to pick up a few Christmas presents for our trip east, and then to lunch. I had the rock shrimp chile relleno while thinking it was not likely a menu item anywhere else except the Southwest corner. We sauntered past the Mingei International Museum where Maureen found a couple of gifts for friends, and I took note of some articles she liked but wouldn’t purchase for herself.

kinsley-puppets-2Finally we made it to the Palisades area of the park where Kinsley and Renee were waiting for us. The theater is a full-blown auditorium in the Spanish Mission style architecture which dominates the park structures. The staff/cast/puppeteers put on five shows a week, changing programs weekly. This is year round.kinsley-puppets – 2I wish every child under five could attend such a show. Kinsley was enthralled. She rocked and clapped with enthusiasm with every new Christmas song as mice, cats, jacks-in-the-box, and a snowman pranced around the puppet stage. I felt about five years old myself (Of course, Maureen often accuses me of acting like a five-year old).

As I tried simultaneously to watch Kinsley and the puppets, my mind wandered to the upcoming Christmas. We will be going straight, or as straight as we can on plane connections and tree-top airlines to Chattanooga tomorrow. Since 1992, Signal Mountain and Lebanon have been Christmas for Sarah, our twenty-five year old daughter. We wish to capture at least part of that this year. The special part of that is our grand niece, Allie Duff, another two-year old, will be the focus of attention. Allie is my sister’s granddaughter.

From there, we head to Austin for our first Christmas with our grandson Sam. We have wanted to be with him for this special time since he was born seven plus years ago, but we had to make choices.

You should note there is no Lebanon on that itinerary. Lebanon has been part of my Christmas holidays for about 50 of my nearly 71 years. I will miss James Cason making me a martini, a dinner with Mike and Gloria Dixon, spending time with Eddie and Brenda Callis and sitting next to them at the Sunday church service. I will miss Bill and Kathy Denny who took special care of my parents, and Charlotte and Kristy Johnson whom my parents considered family. And of course, I will miss Henry and Brenda Harding.

Obviously, the biggest missing will be my mother and father. However, our Christmas this year is focused on children. I am sure my parents think this is the way it should be.